Hey Andy! To get started, how would you describe Data Fetcher?
Hey! Data Fetcher is an Airtable app that lets you import data from into Airtable from other platforms. People like to use Airtable as the source of truth for their business operations, but getting the data in there from all the different apps they use can be difficult. Often this is a manual process, so Data Fetcher saves people time by letting them automate this. Think of it like Zapier, but built into Airtable.
People use the app to import stock prices, YouTube Analytics data, Webflow CMS items and literally hundreds of other use cases. If you’re technical, you can set up custom API requests, which is why it’s so flexible. If not, you can use our pre-built no-code integrations to connect to dozens of third-party applications.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into building products in the first place?
I studied Engineering, Economics & Management at university, which was really interesting but I never really settled on a type of Engineering I wanted to go into after graduation. So I moved home for a few months and taught myself web development. I got a job at a friend’s startup, then contracted at various startups doing React & React Native development.
One of the reasons I got into software was to launch my own product, own my own time, and not be managed by anyone. I was constantly launching little side projects. The first one was a tool for learning Spanish verb conjugations called Verbly, which got some traffic but made exactly £0.
A couple of years later I finally had my first sweet taste of MRR. I figured out how to scrape TikTok and sold that data as a TikTok influencer database, Influence Grid. I bootstrapped it to $3500 MRR but it always felt super fragile as the scraping could break at any point. I sold the platform to another company, which bought me a few months to come up with my next idea..
Where did the idea for Data Fetcher come from, and how did you approach customer validation?
I’d run into the issue of bringing financial API data into Airtable whilst trying to build a IPO alerts newsletter, so I knew there was a need. Then a month later I discovered API Connector, a Google Sheets addon for importing data. So I decided to build the same thing for Airtable.
I didn’t do too much validation of the idea. API Connector was doing well (100,000s of installs at the time), and I found a couple of Airtable forum posts from people wanting to connect to APIs not covered by Zapier etc. I’m glad I went quickly into development, as the only true validation is getting that first paying customer.
What is your ramen profitable target, and how close are you to hitting it?
My target was $5k, which I like to call “London ramen”. I hit that 14 months after launching, which I’m really happy with. $10k MRR is the next big goal. That would be comparable to a London contract developer salary, so I wouldnt be sacrificing anything by working on Data Fetcher.
How did the Ramen Club community help you reach this?
Where to start… The main thing is definitely the mental support and managing the loneliness of being a solo founder. After a setback like a rough MRR month/ technical issue etc., having a group of people on a similar journey to discuss it with is incredible.
I also started a mastermind with two Ramen Club members (shoutout Elston & Michael!) where we discuss our current challenges every couple of weeks. This has been a huge source of support.
The last thing is the range of knowledge and experience people in the community have. For example, my backend was crashing every month or so and I just could not figure it out. I posted in the Ramen Club #dev channel and Wilhelm Klopp helped me fix Redis within a day. More recently, all of my work emails started going to spam (not just newsletters, but everything!). I posted in the community, Stefan told me about DKIM, and I fixed it hours later.
I genuinely can’t think of a better ROI on the membership fee than Ramen Club.
What is your business and pricing model?
Data Fetcher is a freemium SaaS tool. There’s a free plan you can use to do 100 manual runs (imports) a month. If you want more than this or scheduled runs, you start paying. Paid plans start at $24 a month. Each month, 5-10% of people convert from free to paid.
I’ve steadily increased the base price from $12 to $24 a month as I’ve added new features. I don’t plan to increase it much more, as the prosumer market I’m in is fairly price sensitive.
What’s your tech stack?
The Data Fetcher app is React, TypeScript, Airtable’s blocks SDK, urql. datafetcher.com uses Next.js and material UI too.
The backend is Node, TypeScript, Postgres, Typeorm, TypeGraphQL, Redis.
I use Firebase for authentication and Stripe for billing. Everything is hosted on Heroku.
What growth tactics did and didn’t work for you?
What worked: being really early to the Airtable app marketplace. This was partly good fortune but I was also actively looking at growing platforms whilst searching for a new product idea.
The other thing that’s worked is content marketing. I look at my customers’ most common use cases and turn them into YouTube videos and blog posts. 20-25% of new customers come through these channels.
I spent a small amount of paid ads, but I think Data Fetcher’s lowish price point and my lack of expertise/ funding make this a bit of a money pit. People have to install the app from the Airtable marketplace listing, so I can’t do proper conversion attribution for ads.
What was your lowest point in building Data Fetcher so far, and how did you get out?
In February 2021 I had a down MRR month, and seriously wondered if the business model was going to work. The main problem, which is still an issue today, is that many people have one-time use cases for the tool, so cancel after a month. I spoke to a couple of people in Ramen Club, who helped me put things in perspective. I had a product that was making $500 MRR after only 3 months, a lot of people would kill for that!
I also focus don finding a repeatable marketing channel, which led me to YouTube videos and then blog posts. Things started growing again the next month, and I became a bit more patient in my attitude towards the business.
How do you stay focused and avoid distractions?
The fear of having to go get a real job! Motivation is not really an issue. I love being able to wake up every day (without an alarm!), work on a product I love and not answer to anyone.
I also know hard the first 6-12 months of any saas are, even when it’s going reasonably well. This makes me focus on making Data Fetcher the best it can be, rather than considering other product/ start up ideas.
Having to do marketing/ business admin can be boring at times. But I’ve recently been able to hire some help with content marketing, and I plan to keep doing that with areas of the business I don’t want to do myself.
How would you have done things differently if you started again?
I’d do user testing with customers much sooner. Not just customer interviews but actually watching people use the product to find and fix all the UX issues. I only started doing this one year in and it made a massive difference to how easy Data Fetcher is to use. It sounds obvious, but I just didn’t prioritise it over new features, marketing etc.
What are the most common mistakes you see Indie Hackers make early on?
Worrying about which tech stack to use - just use whatever you know. And if you don’t know anything, either use no-code or learn a tech stack with good job opportunities (as a fallback).
Another one is building a tool that is a nice to have rather than solving a real urgent customer problem. I think this often comes from people building things purely for themselves rather than going a little outside their comfort zone and looking at solving problems within other markets/ industries/ platforms.
What else have you built before Data Fetcher, and what were the biggest lessons from those experiences?
Verbly and a football quiz site I built with a friend (now gone from the internet!) taught me that B2C is really hard to do as a bootstrapper. Some people will say don’t charge less than $50 for your SaaS, which I think is a bit high, but you definitely want to be selling to small businesses/ prosumers not consumers.
Influence Grid taught me the value of picking a market you’re interested in. Motivation is easy in any industry whilst MRR is going up. But when it comes time to solve the real issues of the product/ business, you need to actually care!
It also taught me that the nature of the market will define certain things about your business, and you probably can’t avoid these. For example, Influencer marketing is campaign based, so customers will sign up to a SaaS tool, then cancel once the campaign finishes. This means you’re always battling churn. Picking the right industry is crucial.
What is the vision for Data Fetcher 3 years from now?
I’d like to have a Data Fetcher app on 2 or 3 different platforms, to reduce the platform risk of being only on Airtable. I’d also like to hire a couple of people so we can move quicker but I still get to do lots of hands-on product development. In terms of financials, getting to 1000 customers in the next 2-3 years would be pretty amazing.
What are your favourite indie products?
What are your favourite podcasts?
Startup to last, The Top - Nathan Latka, Indie Bites
Where can people stay updated on you and your projects?
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